Milestone alert: Yorkshire Startups has grown to surpass 500 members, around 18 months after I created the Facebook group. Of course, communities aren’t defined by the number of people in them, and it’s more important to me that people see the group as something that will bring them tangible benefit – whether that’s finding out about an event to go to, an accelerator to apply for or meeting somebody new.
It doesn’t make for a fascinating origin story – Batman Begins it ain’t – but I’ll go there anyway. In late 2016, I noticed that Leeds had no equivalent to other regional ‘Startups’ Facebook groups – namely Manchester Startups and London Startups. A few Slack channels existed for the digital tech workers in Leeds and wider Yorkshire, neither of which had any regular activity and played host to a small number of conversations each month. Something was missing, and despite being a newbie to the region’s tech scene, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to create what was initially Leeds Startups to primarily meet new people and learn about what made the community tick.
It was serendipitous that I would end up joining Tech North as Community Engagement Manager two months down the line, a role that would make my involvement in the group invaluable when it came to connecting and sharing information with local entrepreneurs. With a new Yorkshire remit, I renamed the group to Yorkshire Startups and it went from there.
Without meaning to sound cheese-tactic, the group has a noticeable energy 18 months later. It’s lively without being overbearing and a useful promotional resource without feeling sales-y. I still make an effort to start conversations when things go a bit quiet, but there aren’t many weeks that pass without at least five different people posting. And, despite what the ‘Top Cities’ stat below this post shows, Leeds tends not to dominate the conversation.
This past week is a case in point – a cursory glance at its active topics reveals a post about a startup event in Leeds; a new coworking space in Harrogate; an accelerator in London; a pitch competition and separate women-in-tech event in Sheffield; and an Industry 4.0 panel in Barnsley. Not everybody has time to check Facebook groups regularly or sift through posts, so I recently took advantage of the platform’s new tagging system to tag posts and make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for.
The group is growing steadily and, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice its philosophy of helping others in the pursuit of greater numbers. I’ve seen the challenges that come with moderating larger community groups, and there’s a balance to be struck between facilitating useful conversation between members while bringing more voices into the fold. I’ve been tempted to start an offline meet-up group, but Leeds Digital Drinks/Founders’ Friday, held on the last Friday of every month, already does an excellent job of rounding up the tech community – and people don’t usually have a problem traveling to attend.
Whether you’re already in the group or thinking about joining, I hope that Yorkshire Startups will come in useful for you – whatever reason you have for being involved. If you’re interested in joining a similar community with a UK-wide reach that’s part of Tech Nation’s Founders’ Network programme, send me an email.
Stats – people love them. So here are a few:
Top contributors in the last 28 days
Age and gender (we can improve on this!)
Popular days and times